Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Trouble with Television

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT one of those people who whines that there’s nothing good on TV. Quite the opposite, in fact. I love TV. I think many television shows these days are inventive, have wonderful characters and plot lines, and show genuine literary and cinematic merit.

What I do NOT love is the fact that the duration of said shows  are based on ratings rather than sustainable storylines. Time and time again I fall in love with a new TV series, only to have it ruined a few years later by some film exec who said “yes, let’s absolutely write a sixth and seventh season”.

Why do they do this? Why do they insist on ruining wonderful shows by keeping them on too long? The answer, of course, is money. If a series is doing well and the ratings are high, there’s no way they’ll pull the plug, even if they've run out of fresh material.

Which is exactly the disappointment I recently faced when watching what was once one of my most anticipated television shows – Bones. It was one of those series I looked forward to every week. Until last year, that is, when the show that I once adored finally ran out of steam. I trudged along, hoping it would get better until it got so terrible that I finally had to admit defeat. But what’s really disturbing is that in a month or so it’s going to begin airing again, beginning its eight season. Never mind that the plots have become ridiculous and the characters stilted – people keep watching so the executives keep ordering more episodes.

The same could be said of many other shows I once loved. The Office. 24. Even Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the beloved show of my childhood. Though it remains one of my favorite series to this day, I will never understand why they felt the need to make seven seasons. They really should have stopped after three of four. The only thing that consoles me about Fox’s premature cancellation of Firefly , Whedon’s later masterpiece, is that they never got the chance to run it into the ground with too many seasons.

Perhaps that’s why at the end of the day, no matter how much I love certain TV shows, I love movies more. There’s a certain conciseness about film that I find reassuring. Movies have a beginning AND an end, rather than this endless stream of cliffhangers we see with TV. Though of course there are certain film franchises that make the same mistakes as their television counterparts and produce too many sequels (to the detriment of artistic integrity)  that's right George Lucas, I’m talking to you  in general film is a little more conscious of quitting while ahead. 

Thought I must admit, I’ve become a bit concerned with the number of sequels, threequels and prequels being made these days . . .

Let me say one more thing on the subject of over-producing before I end my little rant here. I’ve been incredibly concerned with people’s interest in the continuation of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I constantly hear people saying things like “when is she going to write the next book?” and “I’d love to see what Harry’s like when he’s all grown up and working for the ministry”. To which I respond – ARE YOU SERIOUS? 

The seven Harry Potter books are some of the best young adult literature I’ve ever come across. THE best, if I’m being honest. It’s an epic, seven-part tale that should NOT be tampered with. There’s no way the series can ever be better than it already is, and to try to expand on it is to risk diluting that which is already perfect.

So please, think really hard before you ask for another book, another season, or another sequel. Because these days, you might just get what you wish for.


28 comments:

  1. That was one thing I liked about Babylon 5: they had a story planned, they wrote and filmed it to it's conclusion, then let the story end when and how it was intended too.

    It's almost more painful when a series is getting the axe and they decide to do a quick 'wrap up' to end the story than just let it remain unfinished... Farscape comes to mind. Better to have left it hanging than do a quick end as they did.

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  2. Of course, you also get the other problem with TV. You fall in love with a series, watch it religiously, hit the cliffhanger at the end of season 1 and then... they cancel it.

    I strongly believe that if they cancel a show they have a duty to the fans to do 1 special episode explaining what would have happened. Even if it's just the director talking for 30mins I wouldn't care.

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  3. I completely agree, I absolutely love Harry Potter but I definitely would not want another book, I think it would ruin the series for me. Another book isn't needed; the series is perfect on its own.

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    1. I agree. Maybe and interview of JK Rowling to get her insight on where she sees Harry and the others as they reach adulthood. C-Span perhaps? My thought is all the wasted money on prolonging a series way past its expiration date. I'd rather hear from the writers.

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  4. I don't know if you listen to the Story Wonk podcast, but this was the topic of their conversation last week. I think Buffy wasn't the best example of a great show jumping the shark, as I loved the latter seasons.

    Where I get torn up is in shows like Farscape, where they creator did have a plan - the studio asked them to make more, they did - so the plan got put on hold and they had a year of filler stories, then the show got cancelled and the 'plan' never saw the light of day. If SyFy (then, Sci Fi) had just left them alone it would have worked out.

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    1. You know, I just heard about Story Wonk the other day for the first time, and now you've mentioned it as well. I think this might be something I need to look into. Thanks!

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    2. Story Wonk is something on my "to do" list. Lani Diane Rich is an author I've followed for quite some time. So much to look in to, only so many hours in a day...

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  5. This is perhaps another reason why I stopped watching TV ages ago. The last series I was really into was Grey's Anatomy, but I gave up watching after the fourth season. I'm baffled that the show is still airing till today.

    As for another Harry Potter book, I honestly don't mind, provided Harry Potter himself is not the focus of the story. J.K. Rowling created such interesting side characters and an intriguing world that I'm sure that an additional book or two could be written without diluting our love of the main series. I could be wrong though.

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    1. Yeah, I feel the same way about Grey's. I watched the first couple of seasons before I just couldn't take it any more. Too bad.

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    2. Ditto on Grey's. Found it disturbing so much could be going on in a surgeon's mind/head when they are supposed to be focused on an operation:)

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  6. The X-Files ran out of steam in the last two years. Warehouse 13 is starting to crash as well. And yes, we are talking to you, Lucas!

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  7. I don't really get this. If you stop liking a show, stop watching. I can never understand why someone who stops liking a show continues to watch. For whatever reason, it no longer appeals to you. So yeah, stop watching. Most of the shows I watch, I keep watching. If I stop watching, I don't start complaining about it. I mean, shouldn't I just start watching something else instead?

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    1. The problem is that with books or movies or TV shows, people get invested in the story and the characters. At least when it's something of good quality. So it's difficult to see something you care about and that enriches your life become degraded the way they so often do. At least that's how I feel about the matter. I appreciate that I can just stop watching - and typically that's what I do. But I feel that the stories as a WHOLE would be better if they followed a fixed path rather than meandering through as long as the ratings sustain them.

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  8. British TV works more along the lines that you're talking about, which is why The Office only had, what, 2 seasons in Britain.
    If you want a good show with a definite arc, you should try Babylon 5. Ignore the bad effects in the 1st season and just pay attention to the story.

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    1. I love the British version of the office. And British TV in general. I think you're right, they are much better about calling an end to a series before it becomes degraded.

      And I have seen Babylon 5. Great show.

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  9. Yes! I couldn't agree more on Bones. I loved the show when it came out - it was witty, smart and fast-paced. Now...well, it's not so much. And, like you, I've been loyally trudging along with it because I keep hoping it'll get better. Sigh...

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  10. Great points S.L. Of course, sometimes you have a show like Babylon 5 where they plot the whole thing out and it works. On the other hand you have shows like Lost which obviously loses it's way.

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    1. I agree. More shows should be like Babylon 5.

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  11. I completely agree with everything you've said, esp. HP. It's over so get over it.

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  12. Totally agree. Even about Buffy. It was one of my favourites too, and definitely didn't need to go on so long. In the UK, it's the other way around, sometimes there aren't enough episodes/series.

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    1. I do love the BBC. I hate when they cut good shows short, but I'd rather have less of a good thing than have something I loved become terrible.

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  13. American Idol is the show I wish they'd just axe.

    And I wish MOVIES would quit recycling--even the superhero ones. (Yeah, I'm talking to you Spiderman.)

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  14. I absolutely agree on Harry Potter. It's a brilliant series--and why mess with a good thing? (Felt the same way when I read something about discussion over creating another set of movies, only with American actors. Some of the movies aren't as good as they could be, but they got a strong cast the first time around, IMO.)

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  15. I don't watch much TV at all, but when I have gotten into a series it's been much like you say. My favorites usually have gone off quickly with little or no fanfare, just a plot line left dangling with no resolution. Usually if I'm sitting in front of the tube it's to watch the news (in small doses) or a movie. I used to be a total TV addict when I was a kid.


    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  16. I also don't watch too much TV - I have a few shows I watch, otherwise, I'm trying to spend more time reading. Not a fan when shows I love are dragged out... Buffy is a classic example... so true.

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  17. I completely agree! Chuck is one of my favourite shows, and it started to go downhill after season 3. I think Eureka stayed strong for its five season though, which I was happy with. And that IS the only good thing about Firefly's cancellation.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

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  18. This is the exact reason I've stopped watching television for the most part. I hate getting to a good part and then...having to wait several months for something new. This is why I love Netflix; all these shows I never watched, and it's the whole series.

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  19. I gave up on "Bones" right after the baby was born in a manger. I mean, really. And I'm only sticking out "The Office" right now because I know it's the last season anyway. It hasn't been funny in a while, and Andy Bernard is starting to bug me.

    http://pepperwords.com

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